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Kagemusha (Criterion Collection)


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Product Details

  • Actors: Tatsuya Nakadai, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Ken'ichi Hagiwara, Jinpachi Nezu, Hideji Ôtaki
  • Directors: Akira Kurosawa
  • Writers: Akira Kurosawa, Masato Ide
  • Producers: Akira Kurosawa, Audie Bock, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Tomoyuki Tanaka
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • MPAA Rating: PG
  • Studio: Criterion
  • Release Date: March 29 2005
  • Run Time: 162 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005JLEJ
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #39,835 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)

Product Description

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The 1970s were difficult years for the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. Following the box-office failure of his 1970 film Dodes'ka-den and an unsuccessful suicide attempt, Kurosawa was unable to find financial backing in Japan, and he made his acclaimed 1975 film Dersu Uzala in Siberia with Russian financing. With only partial Japanese backing for his epic project Kagemusha, the 70-year-old master then found American support from George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola, who served as coexecutive producers (through 20th Century Fox) for this magnificent 1980 production--to that date the most expensive film in Japanese history. Set in the late 16th century, Kagemusha centers on the Takeda clan, one of three warlord clans battling for control of Japan at the end of the feudal period. When Lord Shingen (Tatsuya Nakadai), head of the Takeda clan, is mortally wounded in battle and near death, he orders that his death be kept secret and that his "kagemusha"--or "shadow warrior"--take his place for a period of three years to prevent clan disruption and enemy takeover. The identical double is a petty thief (also played by Nakadai) spared from execution due to his uncanny resemblance to Lord Shingen--but his true identity cannot prevent the tides of fate from rising over the Takeda clan in a climactic scene of battlefield devastation. Through stunning visuals and meticulous attention to every physical and stylistic detail, Kurosawa made a film that restored his status as Japan's greatest filmmaker, and the success of Kagemusha enabled the director to make his 1985 masterpiece, Ran. --Jeff Shannon

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4.8 out of 5 stars
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Format: VHS Tape
Just before "Ran," Kurosawa got American funding for this movie about a "shadow warrior" who was assigned to impersonate Takeda Shingen should he die. This was to keep the Takeda clan's border secure and prevent enemies (of which Takeda had many) from invading. It is a wonderful film, and has two very strong points: the visuals, and the characters.
The strong visuals should be obvious - an Akira Kurosawa film with no strong visuals is like a Monet painting with poor use of color. The battle scenes are stunning and seem to come out of a nightmare, with rifleman shooting down on soldiers with a bright light flashing behind them. The colored armor of Takeda's men were also nicely picked and, as Kurosawa would later do with "Ran", give their presense a hauntingly beautiful yet horrifying tone. The final scene at the Battle of Nagashino (which was wrongfully nitpicked in Stephen Turnbull's Osprey book of the battle) chooses to show us only the aftermath of the battle, with shots of cavalry charging to the gunners and then cutting to the horrified expressions of those who watch the unfolding massacre of Japan's greatest army. The shot of the fields of dead is some thing that could only have come out of the nightmare of war.
I think the strongest part of the film, though, were the characters. The film has a slew of fascinating characters, from Takeda's generals (each with their own personality) right down to the rifleman who shot Takeda. Even the spies from Oda and Tokugawa interact and talk like real people, and I can't think of any one in this film I easily forget. I especially liked Oda Nobunaga, and I think this film has the best portrayal I've ever seen of him. He can be seen walking out with his army and stopping briefly to listen to a Christian priest give a prayer.
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Format: VHS Tape
This movie is based on three people 1. Takeda Shingen (Born 1521 - Died 1573),2.Oda Nobunaga (Born 1531 - Died 1582),and 3.Tokugawa Ieyasu (Born 1542 - Died 1616). The movie is set in 16th century Japan (Sengoku Era),Oda Nobunaga rules 'Kyoto' (Yamashiro Province) the throne of Japan,'Kyoto' orders Takeda Shingen to march to Kyoto to liberate the throne from the tyrant Oda Nobunaga. Oda Nobunaga who with 3,000 men defeated Imagawa Yoshimoto's 40,000 men in the battle of Okehazama in 1560 is seen as invincible and ronin warriors start to flock to his banner. In 1573,Oda Nobunaga's army grows from 3,000 to 50,000 men with Takeda Shingen's army at 30,000 men,Takeda Shingen's army beats off Oda Nobunaga's army effortlessly with ease on the road to Kyoto.Oda Nobunaga becomes panick stricken and tries to call a peace with the throne in Kyoto,while Oda Nobunaga helplessly watches his armies destroyed one after another. Tokugawa Ieyasu (an allie of Oda Nobunaga) entrenches himself at Hamamatsu Castle,and launches a calvery of 12,000 against Takeda Shingen's 30,000 men at 'Mikatagahara'(December 22,1573). Tokugawa Ieyasu loses 3,000 men,Takeda Shingen loses 300 men that day. Tokugawa Ieyasu's army runs back like whipped dogs back to the safety of Hamamatsu,watching helplessly as Takeda Shingen's army passes on by to the road to Kyoto. By a quirk of fate Takeda Shingen is shot by a sniper and dies later of lead poison,the Takeda clan keeps his death a secret for three years,meanwhile,Oda Nobunaga wonders why Takeda Shingen has laggard his attack not knowing Takeda Shingen died three years ago.
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Format: VHS Tape
When Kurosawa made this film he was 70 years old and it stands without question as one of his best films. What makes it so powerful is the portrayal of the perfect fusion of the warrior's emotional intensity with intellectual acuity. Both emotion and intellect are focused solely, in this film, on enemy warlords outwitting each other and that focus is so strong that it more than carries the film through its 2 1/2 hour length.
In fact, so strong is the focus that the hapless title character (the shadow warrior)--a common thief who is a perfect lookalike for a mighty warlord, who recruits the thief and is then used by the warlord's retainers as a stand-in after the warlord's death--himself ultimately takes on the psychology of a warrior. And this is true even after he is dismissed from service, after the ordained three years of his deception as the warlord have passed.
Nowhere else in film has the psychology of the warrior been portrayed so sharply, with so much focus, with so much depth--not even in other Kurosawa films, although Seven Samurai is the sine qua non of samurai films. Yet here, in Kagemusha, we see the workings of the minds on both sides, whereas Seven Samurai's power comes from its depiction of how samurais use their intelligence to fight and outwit a completely insubstantial enemy--that is, the bandits, who are never shown up close or presented as anything other than marauding forces.
Kagemusha will never be equalled in its portrayal of the intensity of the warrior spirit. Add to that the astounding vision of a filmmaker who knows more than any other how, where, and why a battle scene's power is derived. As well, there is perfect production design, costuming, and set pieces. There is the obvious attention to detail in capturing the entire world of feudal Japan.
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